Albrecht Dürer

Painter, printmaker and theorist


Albrecht Dürer - Source:

Albrecht Dürer is the greatest exponent of Northern European Renaissance art. While an important painter, in his own day Dürer was renowned foremost for his graphic works. Artists across Europe admired and copied Dürer's innovative and powerful prints, ranging from religious and mythological scenes, to maps and exotic animals.

Technically, Dürer's prints are exemplary for their detail and precision. The son of a goldsmith, Dürer was trained as a metalworker at a young age. He applied the same meticulous, exacting methods required in this delicate work to his woodcuts and engravings, notably the Four Horsemen of his Apocalypse series (1498), and his Knight, Death and Devil (1513).

Dürer's training also involved travel and study abroad. He went to Italy in 1494, and returned again in 1505-6. Contact with Italian painters resonated deeply in his art. Influenced by Venetian artists, who were renowned for the richness of their palette, Dürer placed greater importance on colour in his paintings. His Feast of the Rose Garlands (1506), removed any doubt that, as well as a master of prints, he was an accomplished painter.

Dürer was also a great admirer of Leonardo da Vinci. He was intrigued by the Italian master's studies of the human figure, and after 1506 applied and adapted Leonardo's proportions to his own figures, as is evident in his drawings. Later in his life, in the 1520's, he illustrated and wrote theoretical treatises instructing artists in perspective and proportion.

Dürer was a humanist and a creator. His awareness of his own role as an artist is apparent in his frontal, Christ-like Self Portrait, 1500, just one of many self portraits that he painted in his career. More than simply producing works for his own time, Dürer saw his fame and his contribution as enduring, and as part of history.


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